new dissertation fellowship from the center for engaged scholarship

A correspondent passed along this call for a new year-long dissertation fellowship from the Center for Engaged Scholarship. Application due January 31, 2016. Details below the cut.

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racial disparities in police killings using bayes theorem

The Washington Post has been tracking police killings across the nation. Last week, Peter Aldhous published an analysis of these data.1 He figured that blacks suspects were 37.8% of all unarmed suspects killed by police. White suspects made up a nearly similar percentage of unarmed suspects killed by police, despite the fact that there are almost five times as many whites in the United States as blacks.

This does not provide the best evidence to adjudicate racial disparities in police violence, however. Aldous writes:

Video of McDonald’s last moments, shot 16 times by a white officer, made a stark contrast with images of a handcuffed Robert Lewis Dear, the white suspect in the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs — as activists were quick to point out.

Rather than figure out the probability that an unarmed suspect was black, it would be important to know the probability that a black suspect shotkilled by police was unarmed. We care less whether an unarmed victim was black as we do whether a black victim was unarmed. That would be more in line with, though not exactly equivalent to, what Aldhous wrote.2

Below, I try to explain how we can use rules of probability to explain this problem to an introductory statistics class. Continue reading “racial disparities in police killings using bayes theorem”

affirmative action can’t make itself unnecessary

I spent this morning reading the oral arguments in the second round of Fisher v. Texas, the most recent Supreme Court case on affirmative action in admissions. It’s fascinating to see how the debate plays out, and how it picks up right where the debate in Grutter ended in 2003, with nothing fundamentally resolved.* One issue keeps frustrating me that I haven’t seen discussed in the secondary coverage. Several times the conversation turns to the claim made in the Grutter decision that affirmative action might only be needed for another 25 years. We’re halfway through that, the Justices note, and Scalia asks bluntly: “do you think all of this won’t be necessary in another 13 years?” But here’s the thing: affirmative action can’t make itself unnecessary.

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cost-cutting in higher ed

In the Washington Post earlier this week, Steve Pearlstein published a piece promoting four things universities should do to cut costs:

  1. Cap administrative costs
  2. Operate year round, five days a week
  3. More teaching, less (mediocre) research
  4. Cheaper, better general education

The next day, Daniel Drezner responded with four things columnists should do before writing about universities.

  1. Define what you mean by “universities.”
  2. Don’t exaggerate the problems that actually exist.
  3. Don’t rely on outdated data.
  4. Be honest that you’re using higher ed reform as an implicit industrial policy.

Continue reading “cost-cutting in higher ed”